A household name in the realm of alternative rock, The Used are poised for a rebirth of sorts in 2012. With a new record being released on their own Anger Music Group in conjunction with Hopeless Records by the name of Vulnerable, Bert McCracken and company are poised to hit the road again with a new batch of tracks. I dropped Bert a line last week to talk to him about the new record, what it means to him and potentially where we might see The Used in the coming months.
There was a lot of uncertainly both around and after you guys recording your last full-length, Artwork. How did all of that shape how The Used approached this new record?
The record was a pretty one note record, very emotionally dark and heavy. I think we got some good sounds and the reception was really good considering we got no support from the label and this and that. I really wanted to make a record that said a lot of positive things instead of always focusing on the negative things. In a big way, that affected every single part of the record especially the sound.
You guys have a long-standing relationship with John Feldmann and decided to go back to him this time around. What sparked that decision as opposed to going back to Matt Squire or perhaps choosing someone else?
Matt Squire was good for getting sounds, but mostly he was trying to play the label game and that was how the record kind of Ďgot fuckedí in my mind. No offense to Matt, but heís just not the type of experimental producer that Iím kind of looking for. The relationship that we have with Feldmann, just knowing him for ten years, heís pretty much family. But heís right for the music that we wanted to write and I know that heís down to try anything. In that aspect, it was the perfect time and the perfect combination.
Tell me about the approach you took to the songwriting of Vulernable.
I think this time around, we approached the songwriting process in a different way. Other than the typical drum and bass and guitar approach to writing records, we kind of approached this record through a keyboard and inspirations of different influences, and creating beats and basslines around things that I come up with on a keyboard. For one, itís a very diverse record, which all of The Usedís records are very diverse. I think this record has the emotional feel of the first record in a very big way. Itís all about becoming more than just the person you are expected to be. In that sense, it sounds really modern, but it brings back a lot of the love that the first record had.
You talked about beats and such, how would you say this record reflects upon the recent resurgence of electronic music as opposed to how bands such as Enter Shikari use it?
I think that weíre approaching it a different way, we didnít just make a bunch of beats or samples. Weíre drawing from classic influences like RíníB and classic pop sounds and hip-hop. Weíre not really venturing into the the techno, electronic, experimental sound as far as our direction but more reflecting on the past and how electronic music kind of made pop music and RíníB music more exciting.
Musically and lyrically, what are some of the personal things that had an effect on the outcome of this record? How does Vulnerable reflect the sound or message?
Thinking about the type of band we are in the approach to this record and thinking about where we came from really helps to capture the direction of this record emotionally. We all came from pretty much nowhere and we never really the cool guys or never fit into any specific kind of group. So for us growing up, music was our salvation. Music was our life. We kind of wanted to make a record for the misfits, for the outcasts like us. The kids who got picked on and never really fit into any type of group. The whole idea of vulnerable being a negative thing is completely backward in my mind. We just wanted to try to flip the perception of vulnerable into a positive and kind of portray how a person at their most vulnerable state is more likely to realize dreams and stuff like that.
What are some of the particular messages you tried to get across in the lyrical content of this record?
For me, the more I reflect in our art and our six records if you count Shallow Believer, life, especially art, is all our failures and successes. Itís what we do with those failures and successes that kind of define us as people and as artists. The whole idea that the most broken state can come the most powerful uprising and create ambition. Even in regular day situations in life, I think the only way youíre going to be able to fall in love is to be vulnerable and open up to the idea of love.
With mixing and such going on at this point, how much are you involved in the process right now?
Weíre 100% involved all the way through. This is kind of our breakout point in our career. Weíre no longer with Warner Bros. and we started a company called Anger Music Group thatís an all-inclusive art production company. The recordís gonna come out on Anger Music Group, which makes it just really all about us. If we donít do the work at this point, then no one will, you know?
Speaking of Anger Music Group, youíre releasing this in conjunction with Hopeless. How important is it to you, at this point in your career, to have control of how your band is being represented?
Itís very important. We just kind of played the game for ten years now and I think that we got everything we possibly could have gotten from Warner Bros. Records and for the first six years they held up their end of the bargain. I think when the record label sort of started to kind of collapse was when the label starts telling the lead singer what he can and cannot sing. They told me that I could not say Ďshití in some of my songs. So itís important for us to have one hundred percent creative freedom and it always has been. It couldnít have been a more perfect time for it to happen. Warner Bros. paid us to start making the record and then they dropped us and inevitably had to pay us off our record contract. We had the money and the means necessary to start a company and we always wanted to start a record label. But when we thought about the bigger picture, instead of a record label, the ideal situation would be to own a music production company and an art production company that involves everything from fashion design to film to physical art, photography to anything that has to do with creative artistic endeavors.
How did the deal with Hopeless come about, and what drew you to them instead of anyone else?
We knew that this record was going to come out on our own label, and we hadnít really thought about meeting with any independent labels. We were basically meeting with distribution companies like RED, just because we needed someone to distribute the record. Itís hard for a couple people to box up thousands and thousands of records and send them all over the world. It obvious that we needed a distro company, but once we started reaching out there, Hopeless made us an offer to strictly distribute the record. Independent labels have never done anything like that in the past, so we kind of jumped on that. So what kind of attracted us to Hopeless was there dedication to charity. Theyíve raised over a million dollars for different charities and at this point in our career we really want to give something back.
How do you feel some of the fans youíve lost along the way will react to not only having a new record out, but the record itself?
Itís kind of out of my hands. If I love the songs and I enjoy the record, then Iíve succeeded already. Anyone who wants to enjoy the music that we make just makes me smile and Iím grateful for that. But for all the old fans and new fans, this record is really diverse and thereís so many different emotions, feelings and colors that whatever type of music youíre into, thereís something on the record for you.
Now that the record is close to being done, what kind of touring are you hoping to do? Are you planning on touring some and then hitting the road full steam come summertime?
Weíre gonna hit the road. We start next month in Australia. And then weíre doing some southeast Asia shows and a show in the Phillipines, and then we come back for the record release and do some secret shows of sorts and some radio shows. Then we go to Europe and then come back for a headlining tour in the states before the summer. Weíre gonna start touring right away.
Thereís been a rampant rumor that you guys might be playing Warped Tour this summer, can you confirm or deny that?
I donít think itís gonna happen. My answer is no.
Finally, what do you hope people take away from Vulnerable?
In all honesty, I hope that people take from this record the love of music. Thereís a lot of inspiration on this record, and I think that having a dream and believing in something is all good and fine, but it just takes that step off the ledge. It can be scary to take that first step, but dreams really do come true. Thatís the message that weíre going for. Vulnerability is a positive thing and maybe even a dangerous thing if you dare to dream.
Anything else youíd like to add?
Iím just stoked that weíre back, and this is really the year of The Used. You can definitely expect some really awesome things this year from The Used and some videos and tons of good live shows. We canít wait to see ya and weíll see you out there.
really looking forward to this release. seems to be a lot of passion in the single and i'm really diggin it. he and the band seem to be enjoying what they do again, hopefully it shows threw on the record.
I want to grab the vinyl, but I always worry that I am going to get stuck with a shitty bitrate on the digital that they offer. I think I got 128 one time. It would be sweet if they did it bandcamp style. Really digging the single.